Skip to main content

Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

See other formats

ALEXANDER  YON  HTJMBOLBT.                237
When they were already far away, the Gotopaxi
sent a thundering adieu after them. We have already
mentioned that Humbolclt found this crater, which
had been dead since 1768, and had since then not
even ejected smoke or a visible vapour, quite hot, and
had by this news excited great depression and terror
in the town of Quito. He had already departed, and
was in the port of Guayaquil, distant fifty-two miles
in a straight line from the mountain, when he heard,
the roaring of the Cotopaxi, like a cannonading1, night
and day, and was even pursued by this fearful noise
of the crater near which he had lately been, as far as
the south sea, south-west of the island de la Puna.
He afterwards heard that the subterranean fire in this
mountain had been so violently developed, in a single
iiightj that the thick snow covering., 533 toises in
breadth, had suddenly disappeared, and that at sun-
rise the usually snowy portion of this immense peak
was covered with glazed lava, which towered threaten-
ingly over the terrified population of the district.
The carpet which a fertile flora spreads over the
naked surface of the earth is unequally woven; it is
closer where the sun rises higher in the never-clouded
sky, and looser towards the sluggish poles, where the
returning frost nips the budding blossom or the ripen-
ing fruit. But the plants necessary for the food of
man are found everywhere.
If a volcano divides the boiling tide at the bottom
of the sea, and suddenly projects a lava rock, the
peaceful lithophytes bxiild their cellular dwellings upon
it, and after thousands of years they raise it to the
surface of the sea, die, and leave a flat coral reef. The
organic forces are now immediately at hand to vivify
the dead rock. Whether migratory birds, or^winds,
or waves of the sea suddenly bring the seeds, is diffi-
cult to ascertain, from the great distance of the coast.